Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.
When a Christian no longer wants to listen to truth
We call ourselves Christians because we are believers in Christ. And who was He? Who is He?
Truth. He is truth.
I recently experienced a situation in which for years I’ve been burdened about one particular relative who has compromised her faith within the walls of secular humanism, a religion at war with God. She insists that she is in the center of God’s will. Since she strongly believes this deception, I decided to write her a letter motivated by love, forewarning her of the clever devices the enemy uses to entrap the most unsuspecting of believers, those who with all good intentions want to make a difference in the world.
Every word I wrote to her in the letter was motivated from having taught in secular higher education, until ultimately finding my way out of that matrix of humanism. I explained how God had taken me through a maze in order to get me to see what His will was—His undeniable will—and how I have since kept my hand to the plow without looking back.
When she said that she considered her workplace a mission field, I remembered a time when I felt that way about it too. I remember wanting so much to make an impact, to share the gospel with those that were lost, to encourage existing believers that were in my midst. At the time, I may have planted a seed here and there, but at the end of the day, who was I really fooling when by federal mandate, secular schools are at war with God? It’s as if I was working for Balaam, the one who knew that if the Israelites adopted pagan ways, God would not bless them as He had done. As it turned out, the Israelites allowed the pagans to influence them, instead of standing firm on the sure Word of God and His Holy Law. Is it any wonder, then, that many working for Balaam today would be convinced that what they are doing is good? Doesn’t this resonate with how Satan convinced Eve that the fruit he offered her was good too?
I am not one to pass judgment, to condemn, but knowing that God’s judgment is very real, we can only say, woe to him that falls in the hands of an angry God!
When the one we admonish is unwilling to listen, it is time to dissolve the conversation. Admonishing becomes of no good use to someone who is taken by the deceptive allusions of the enemy. Sadly, she may fool herself and fool countless others, but eventually she will be unable to defend herself against the truth, today or tomorrow. God will not let fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness go unrecognized. God may have mercy and may long-suffer, but we need to suspend the platitudes of conditional convenience: if God allowed us to be in a particular job or place, then it must be God’s will.
Can we tell that to Lot?
What becomes apparent is that when the world has a stronghold on someone who is washed by the blood of Christ, it becomes very hard for her to see anything clearly.
But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain. A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject; knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself. Titus 3:9-11
There comes a time when as believers, we are commanded to admonish one another. Sadly, no matter how many attempts are made in love and kindness to warn others in the faith—whether we tip-toe around the topic, or mildly approach the matter, or become bold as lions with conviction to confront an issue—they will not drink from the vessel of truth. Paul says that a believer who refuses to be corrected should be put outside the fellowship, for he is “condemned of himself.”
At this time, the conversation ends. We needn’t continue a conversation lest we end up with vain babblings, at which time it is wise to leave it all up to God. We can trust that we’ve done our part to bring the error to the believer’s attention, and we’ve tried “the spirits to see if they are of God.” We’ve described what God has taught us in the process, and how it has brought us to sackcloth and ashes.
It may be automatic to respond by the shaking of our head in regret for that soul who sorely misunderstood us, who is puffed up in pride and self-proclaimed humility that any biblical challenge only becomes a threat. Any biblical challenge fights with the consuming vanity that besets the erroneous believer. When we admonish someone who is cemented in their pride, it is only by a miracle that they’ll be able to see clearly. Like my husband said to me about this: Keep your pearls. Sometimes your rebuke will be met with hostility.
Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you. Matthew 7:6
And it is unfortunate to see a Christian compromise the faith, unwilling to stand courageously in full obedience to God. I’ve seen rebellious spirits crushed in order to make room for steps to be taken to please God. Only the Holy Spirit can remove the stronghold of pride. I know this to be true in my own life. I didn’t see myself as an instrument of a lie and seeing the truth wasn’t very clear to me. It was only through obedience to the Holy Spirit that I came to realize how mistaken I was to proceed with a career in secular education, where my soul was vexed and made to wander in hopeless pursuits of what in the Old Testament Solomon called vanity.
I trust that it will take something monumental to draw my relative to righteousness, to bring her to a point of sackcloth and ashes. My futile attempts to keep her from falling into a ditch are too small compared to what God can do. It will take more than what I say to her, more than all the scriptures I’ve referenced, more than any prayer I can cry out to God on her behalf. I need to remember that God, as much as He long-suffers, remains just and may not bring grace to the rebellious. The prophet Jeremiah was told by God three times to cease from praying for the people of Judah, for they had stretched His patience. The people of Judah, in their false repentance, continued long enough for God to turn deaf ears to their cries since they had placed their handmade idols above God. We see when intercession is profitable, as in the cases of Moses and Samuel, but in the case of Jeremiah, the people were so wicked and stubborn that God knew they wouldn’t turn to Him.
Likewise, God knows when those we care about, those we warn, those we pray for are unwilling to turn to Him. Knowing He turned a deaf ear on that occasion in the book of Jeremiah brings us to ask ourselves: what then do we do after the second admonishment is given and there is no fruit that comes of it?
We grieve. We protect our heart. We leave it all in His mighty hands for our work is done. Our obedience to Him is complete in having ministered to the one in need of a warning. Time and time again, I have found great comfort in the passage of Philippians 4, verse 8:
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
We think on things that are true, honest, on what is just, what is pure. We think on things that are of good report. This is how to best guard our hearts against the bitter disappointment of grieving over the believer who refuses a kind word of advice, a loving warning of danger up ahead. We keep our pearls.
The storm my family went through several years ago taught us this: we need to be direct about the truth and live it with conviction. Whenever we’re motivated to admonish someone, we go out! We alert those that are tangled in deception.
As a teacher, Timothy helped those who were confused about the truth and Paul’s advice to him—and to all who teach God’s truth—was to be humble and to patiently and courteously explain the truth. However, truth can only be taken to heart when the spirit is teachable to receive it.
Brethren, do for God what you don’t think you can do. Be strong and courageous in the faith. Take every thought captive and try the spirits. Be brave to demonstrate beautiful evidence of your love and submission to the Saviour. When someone pulls you aside to keep you from falling into a ditch, let them. They may have fallen in it themselves already.
For more on this topic, read my letter of lament: Dear Student: I Was Wrong.